Neil deGrasse Tyson and a confusing ramble on sex and gender

August 1, 2023 • 11:30 am

Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson gave his exercised take on sex and gender in a TikTok interview, but this section, shown below in a tweet, has caused considerable controversy on the internet, and was sent me by an offended woman reader.  Have a listen:

In general, I agree with some of the things he says and disagree with others.  To me, the two most bothersome things are his initial conflation of sex and gender.  Sex is largely determined by chromosomal constitution (though it’s a correlate with the real criterion for biological sex: whether one has the equipment to make eggs or sperm), but Tyson immediately segues from biological sex into gender roles, saying that biological sex is “insufficient” to specify gender roles.  Well, yes, that’s true, though the vast majority of people conform pretty well to an identifiable role. As, Tyson points out earlier in the interview (see link above), that you can with substantial accuracy identify someone’s biological sex from the “gender role” (earrings, makeup, clothes, etc.).

Where he’s right here is that nobody cares, or should care, whether someone conforms to the expected behavior and appearance of members of their biological sex. (People do care, of course about children being treated medically with hormones and surgery so their secondary sex characteristics conform to their own view of their gender.) And, in fact, do people really care that much? I thought most of the kerfuffle was about transgender people and not genderfluid people.

But then he goes wrong again when he adumbrates gender stereotypes:

Suppose no matter my chromosomes, today I feel 80% female 20% female. I’m gonna put on makeup. I’m gonna do this. Tomorrow I might feel 80% female. I’ll remove the makeup and put on a muscle shirt.

That offended my correspondent, who doesn’t consider herself genderfluid but objects to specifying makeup as the sign of a female gender and muscle shirts as the sign of male gender. Those are invidious gender stereotypes, and are opposed to the very kind of social pressure to which Tyson objects.

Below is a string of tweets from Kara Dansky, self-identified as “Feminist fighting for the sex-based rights of women and girls. Author, The Abolition of Sex. President, @WDI_USA”. 

She, like my correspondent, thinks the idea that one can wake up feeling “80% female and 20% male” complete lunacy. Dansky also agrees with me that even accepting that you’re of pure male gender doesn’t mean you have to conform to the dress code of “muscle shirts.”


And Emma Hilton’s take:

In other words, Tyson seems to object to social pressure to conform to a simple male/female dichotomy, and yet reinforces that dichotomy when specifying the secondary signs of gender.

I’m not deeply offended by this, but it just seems a bit confused, and at least three women are offended. What do you think?


UPDATE: Click for Colin Wright’s take:

An excerpt:

There is a significant amount of confusion and obfuscation to dissect here, especially concerning Tyson’s overt blending of sex and gender expression and his seemingly total acceptance of radical gender ideology that roots the terms womangirlman, and boy in identity and expression instead of biology.

Tyson is correct in pointing out that a person’s sex doesn’t inevitably dictate how they might choose to express themselves through clothing or makeup; but this is banal and rarely, if ever, contested point. From the context, it’s evident that Tyson is using the term “gender” to describe the ways in which people express themselves through grooming, attire, and makeup choices. Given this, it’s ludicrous to imply that people are “assigning” others a “gender.” No one is campaigning or attempting to enforce binary dress codes for males and females across society. So who is the “you” to which Tyson believes he is responding?

Tyson’s take appears to be the result of a successful Left-wing fear mongering campaign to dismiss and downplay legitimate concerns over gender ideology. Progressive gender activists wants to portray their critics as ignorant, backward bigots who retch at the mere thought of a man wearing nail polish. But this depiction strays far from reality.

76 thoughts on “Neil deGrasse Tyson and a confusing ramble on sex and gender

  1. Ugh – there’s a reason for confusion, it’s not reading the right material – and I personally admit this, having only learned the origin of the debasement of the linguistic term “gender” by the other day from Kathleen Stock’s Material Girls.

    Sex is either a verb (transitive?), or noun.

    I will not aid and abet any Critical Social Justice words-as-power praxis by putting qualifiers next to “sex”, but of course, I arrived at that after much confusion, so I’m not preaching here – I’m exasperated.

    The confusion about a fact – sex – equivalent to chirality (“handedness”), perhaps – can only be produced by postmodern/academic unempirical Byzantine lucubrations, and I fell for it. People interested in natural sciences rightly have better things to do than read John Money, Robert Stoller, Butler, Foucault, et. al., so it can slide by. It is devilish.

    This comment is long because of postmodernism.

  2. Like the meme says.

    Sexism: “The woman must do the dishes”
    Feminism: “Anyone can do the dishes”
    Gender ideology: “Whoever does the dishes is the woman”

    It’s very hard for me to see this ideology as anything other than regressive. And I find it very difficult to figure out how we went from “we have to shatter gender stereotypes so that anyone–regardless of sex–is free to be and do whatever they want” to “this is what ‘men’ are like and this is what ‘women’ are like, and you have to determine if you are one or the other or neither”.

    1. Sexism: “The woman must do the dishes”
      Feminism: “Anyone can do the dishes”
      Gender ideology: “Whoever does the dishes is the woman”

      Brilliant! The air rings with the unmistakeable sound of a nail, accurately and forcefully struck on the head.

      That the great Neil deGrasse Tyson should deploy his immense gifts in the service of such anti-scientific, obvious nonsense demands a special, probably very personal kind of explanation. I wonder if it is to be found on page 218 of his mostly excellent book, Starry Messenger, in the Acknowledgments section. Very understandable.

      1. Interesting, Richard – many thanks:

        Daughter Miranda Tyson (social justice educator) and son Travis Tyson (college freshman) both made it clear that I may never be woke enough for their outlooks on the world, which helped bring many passages of the book into the third decade of the twenty-first century, where they belong. Sister-in-law Gretchel Hathaway (DEI specialist) offered a few woke comments of her own.

      2. I’d caught that on a podcast with Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson recently and was going to mention it.

    2. This illustrates Judith Butler’s gender-as-performance thesis as the replacement for sex after Butler deconstructs sex using postmodernism in Gender Trouble (1996… I think).

      I recommend that book – and Kathleen Stock’s Material Girls (2021).

      Postmodernism/structuralism takes so long to explain, because it is – IMHO – antiparsimonious.

  3. “As, Tyson points out earlier in the interview… you can with substantial accuracy identify someone’s biological sex from the “gender role” (earrings, makeup, clothes, etc.).”

    What Tyson said was precisely correct. You can with high accuracy predict a person’s sex by observing the clothing they wear. The one commenter who raged on about “what is 80% of a woman??” missed the point entirely.

    My one suggestion to everyone- not just males- would be, beware when talking about women in a public forum. Truth will be no protection against the rage that follows, not from the majority of fair minded women, but from the perpetually outraged minority.

    1. Yes, and I think this is the precise target of the praxis – to erode confidence in any given individual’s ability to discern male from female.

      The postmodernist writing obsesses over this fairly common behavior trait – it is sad and depressing to behold. We evolved the trait. It is fairly stable. There are corner cases for whatever reasons. No big deal.

      Ah – a stable feature of society? Time to Queer it! I think it is sad and depressing? The Demiurge (e.g. devil) has corrupted me, and I must confess!

      Seriously look up Demiurge and Gnosticism.

    2. The problem is that it reduces the sexes to stereotypes. Two of the most important women in my life never were makeup. Does this make them some percentage male? Nope. It makes them themselves.

      Come to think of it, one of them I have never seen in a dress and rarely in a skirt. She’s also good at DIY and loves football (a Liverpool fan, but we can’t all be perfect). What percentage man is she waking up as every morning?

      Is my brother some percentage woman because he hates sport of any kind?

      We were a long way down the road to ditching gender stereotypes and roles but now they are coming back with a vengeance because the trans-activists need them to be true.

    3. You can, with substantial accuracy, identify someone’s biological sex from the way they talk about women.

      Men wear make up, robes and earrings too. They are not a ‘gender role’.

      Women can, with substantial accuracy, identify someone’s biological sex from their biological sex, regardless of presentation. We have been taught as toddlers to watch out for bad men. Our lives can often depend on recognising the potential danger of the sex that does 99.05% of sexual assaults on us.

      We see instinctively the characteristics of the male sex that most men fail to see. With one glance we can take in build, waist, jaw, shoulders, Adam’s apple, hands, feet, way of walking. We can also usually tell if the footsteps following us on a dark night are male or female. Your lives don’t depend on it. Ours may.

      It’s why so few trans identifying men ‘pass’ to women. We see the man, not the clothes.

      Emma Hilton is an eminent evolutionary biologist. To dismiss her valid points as ‘raging’ is to dismiss all women who have been defending our human right to safety and dignity for years. We ARE angry and we have every right to be when men tell us we have to move over and surrender our womanhood and our words to men. It is YOU who missed the point entirely.

      Take your own advice, “beware when talking about women in a public forum”. You may be broadcasting your misogyny to the world.

      That “perpetually outraged minority” was polled at 80% two years ago, and is still rising with events like the Cass report, the attack on women’s sport and the latest revelations about the danger of puberty blockers. That’s the truth you claim to want.

      Anyone who isn’t ‘outraged’ by this attempt to remove the safeguarding boundaries of girl’s and women’s bathrooms, hospital wards, refuges, changing rooms etc doesn’t understand the end goal of Queer Theory.

      Is about ALL men, not just those who claim a female gender. No one can tell the difference between a man with gender dysphoria in a dress and a paedo in a dress. You cannot let one man into our spaces but not the other. Most women and many men see this.

      One in four women has been the victim of male sexual assault or rape. Listen to us.

  4. I think that these days finding offense it what other people have said has become an art form. A performative art form.

    People that want to argue about and find offense over how someone else uses certain words, or how bad their examples and other rhetorical faults are, these people are not interested in understanding the ideas others are attempting to convey.

    NdGT’s statements here may not have been rhetorical masterpieces, and his conception of gender might be out of date compared to some and confused, but none of these critical responses addressed the general meaning he was trying to convey.

    Merely my opinion of course, but I don’t think that expressing that tolerance for what other people want to think of themselves as is worthy of scorn and derision. Even if I might disagree with the person about other things. And trust me, I do think scorn and derision have their place.

    I’m not particularly impressed by NdGT’s statements here but I’m considerably less impressed by the example criticisms.

    1. Eek this is shocking that you are down playing women’s outrage with the statement ‘a performative art form’.

      I can assure you that woman are definitely not doing a performance. We are highly offended and are seething at the lack of respect or even sensible comprehension of what being a female is.

      All women are hardwired to assess the sex of a person and we do not under any circumstances do an analysis of how much makeup they have on nor how muscly their shirt is. A glance is all that is required and we are accurate. Men will not and never will pass.

      Nobody wakes up feeling 80% male. This is such utter nonsense that it is bewildering that this poppycock needs debating.

      I am sure you are trying to be kind and inclusive but it really should not be at the expense of women.

      1. That is exactly what it looks like. The attitude reads performative. Pointing out what you think is wrong with NdGT’s statements does not require or warrant outrage or ridicule. NdGT is not a radical transgender activist. Outrage at them is warranted. Outrage at reasonably decent people, as NdGT appears to be, only causes friction between you and many others that feel the same way you do about men using trans-rights activism to invade women’s spaces.

        Also, I’m not so sure how infallible women’s male-radar is, or that it’s any better than men’s. I’m better than my wife at detecting both men in drag and gay men.

        1. Sorry are you saying that my emotions are not real? I can assure you that I am furious at how this gender ideology is going. I do very much care about women and especially children.

          It is quite fascinating reading the comments that most men think meh whatever. A lot of women get quite cross and we are told to calm down and stop being so dramatic

          Have you heard of the British fracas over Costco Coffee advertising celebrating the mutilation of women’s breasts with trivial cartoons? Ironic that they never depict the mutilation of men’s genitals in the same way. Why is that? Would men rightly be offended as they should be or would it make them very uncomfortable?

          It is very sad sign that these are points of concern today.

          Happy your radar is functioning as it should.

          1. It seems clear nobody needs an “authority” to dictate what both Kelcey and Darrelle show here and know (I agree) as innate, automated human functions – discrimination (in a literal, not political sense) of male from female.

            IMHO this is precisely the target of Queer praxis – to undermine confidence – the switch – with the bait of empathy for everyone. Intended result : “gender fluid” Utopia.

      2. I wonder how NGT would respond if someone wandered into his office carrying a telescope and told him that the telescope made them an astronomer.

    2. I have similar sentiments, darrelle.

      Sure NGT’s presentation wasn’t artful, but we can see the general meaning he was trying to convey, which was generally good-hearted and supportive. Does his reference to wearing make-up mean he’s saying “All Women Wear Make-up?” Of course not! No more than he’s going to say all men wear muscle shirts. I mean…c’mon!
      Somehow, as a male, I managed not to be offended by NGT’s reference to guys wearing muscle shirts.

      But it’s not for nothing make-up commercials are aimed at women! They predominantly wear the make-up in society! (And lots of Transgenders who feel “female”…gasp!…put on make up usually worn by women!)

      A lot of it seems to be the usual “I’m going to take the worst inference of what someone was trying to say to be offended.”

  5. I think women like Kara Dansky and others who self-identifiy as “Feminist[s] fighting for the sex-based rights of women and girls” could be really helpful by organizing politically to put legal barriers in the path of doctors who want to give puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to adolescent girls (and boys), a practice unsupported by evidence and supported only by ideology and an arbitrary definition of conversion therapy. They won’t stop doing it in the face of professional peer pressure until it is made illegal. In many jurisdictions this will mean supporting political candidates who are not your normal bedfellows and this is a choice you will have to make. I think the trans ideology has got as far as it has because women have been unwilling to ally themselves on this issue with people who aren’t completely sold on abortion rights.

    1. What do you think women have been doing for the last 5 years? We have already raised multiple court cases on blockers (Keira Bell anyone?) and pushed for the Cass report that has now exposed the horrors of the Tavistock transing gay kids and led to its restructure and curtailing the hand outs of blockers. Several countries have now agreed to limit off label use of blockers

      We are already working with right wing Matt Walsh and his ilk. He has vile views on abortion but campaigns on women’s right to sex based safe spaces. Because of that we get attacked for being right wing ourselves, which we aren’t.

      We are exposing the damage blockers do the hypothalamus, leaving kids intellectually, emotionally and sexually stunted. The Endocrine Society seems to be having a rethink.

      We have left our political parties in droves. Both Labour and the SNP have lost women. We have started new parties. I loathe the Tories but they have several politicians who are working for women’s sex based safe spaces and the protection of children.

      Don’t blame women for this. Blame the proponents of Queer Theory who got themselves placed in corporations and governments where they were lobbying for Queer Theory before anyone wised up. Blame men who ignored women and dismissed us as ‘self-identified feminists’ and didn’t listen when we told them what was happening.

      Gay men joined women when they were told it’s transphobic not to have sex with women who think they are men. But other men have been slow to the game, with Graham Linehan being a rate exception.

      I suggest you read back the timelines of the two women mentioned, and Graham, to see what women have been fighting for. Then join us.

      1. Absolutely. Graham Linehan is a rare exception, indeed – and he’s paid a heavy personal price for it, though not as heavy as some women, of course.

        I see that the penny has finally dropped for Andrew Neil – how has he missed seeing this up until now? At least he’s giving credit where it’s due:

  6. I think K. Dansky is more than a little over the top here, and I can’t even tell what point she is trying to make. NGDT is saying (with some confusion on details that we can overlook), that there are people who do feel more like a woman and less like a man, and at other times they can flip. This seems to be a real phenomenon, from what I’ve seen based on at least one person of my acquaintance and from what I’ve read. And further, what business is it of other people to attack that? That seems to be his main point. But K. Dansky did not seem to get it, imo.

    1. If you are a woman then you know what one woman (yourself) feels like. Similarly, if you’re a man, one man. Everything else is pure speculation.

  7. I don’t think his little bit about 80/20% particularly OFFENSIVE, but it is rather silly and not terribly useful. I note that PCC(E) almost never shares his opinions on matters of astronomy and physics, other than to admire them at times. I wish other scientists would keep in their lane, at least as far as the substantive matters of an issue is concerned. Of course, Professor Tyson is and should be free to say what he wants, as people are free to say they’re offended by it, but since he is a well-known science educator (among other things) I wish he would be a bit more judicious.

  8. How about just disagreeing with instead of being offended by what someone else says? The easily offended offend me because they seem to be saying that others are bad, not just wrong.

    1. Richard Hanania describes this as “women’s tears win all arguments.” Taking offense is part of the theatre because it often gives you moral authority to cancel someone. Even when it actually doesn’t, it’s a default way of thinking. Can’t hurt.

  9. I’m not deeply offended by this, but it just seems a bit confused, and at least three women are offended. What do you think?

    Whom it offended, or how many, is irrelevant to me. I don’t have a problem with Tyson offending people 🙂

  10. Neil deGrasse Tyson is not a saint of my devotion (as we say in Catalan). He seems to be one of those intellectuals who often patronizes his audience, never saying exactly what he thinks but rather what he considers more convenient to be convincing, and always afraid to alienate his listeners. His weird contortions when talking about god or religion are painful to witness. It looks like he doesn’t want to offend anybody, and if the price of that wishy-washy attitude is being confusing, he doesn’t seem to mind at all. I find that very annoying and disrespectful. I think he does exactly this in this video.

    I much prefer Dawkins’s approach:

    1. He couldn’t do much better, because he does not have the faintest idea what he is talking about. Occasionally, there have been physicists whose views on religion were not terribly well-informed (Sagan, Weinberg, Krauss…) but they had other insights to offer to that you could overlook that. Tyson hasn’t even done any science since he managed to get a PhD a few decades ago.

  11. Neil deGrasse Tyson lives in a world (bubble) where unambiguous sexuality is unacceptable. In his world, ambiguity is all the rage. In the real world, not so much. Does he actually know anything about the biology of sex? Of course, not. Actual knowledge would interfere with being PC.

    1. I was thinking that as well, especially as, not long ago, he got into a spot of bother which, fortunately appears to be unfounded. Nevertheless, he probably felt himself to be in some progressive cross hairs and, therefore, may think he needs to curry favour.

  12. Kara Dansky wrote that “…the United States declared that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness.” No, it didn’t. That phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence, which was a list of grievances from an emerging nation to its soon-to-be-former colonizer. The important parts are the twenty-seven specific complaints against British governance, but it seems that all that people remember is the two-paragraph preamble.

    First of all, the rights to “…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” are expressed as an ideal state to be worked toward, not things that were actually defined to exist in law. They were expressed as an objective to be secured. However, and this is an even more important point, nothing in the Declaration of Independence has ever been enshrined into law in the US. It cannot be cited in a court as a legal authority or precedent, nor can any of its provisions be enforced as if they were law.

    Some people often cite the ideas of the D of I as if they were equal to the Constitution or the many parts of the US Code, but it is not. Others confuse its provisions with Constitutional principles, saying that the the L, L & poH are Constitutional rights. That is simply not true.

    I have a great admiration for the Declaration of Independence – after all, its principal author is lurking in my family tree as a great-to-the-eighth uncle – but I do get annoyed when people who should know better give it a place in the US legal structure that it does not belong to.

    1. Certainly the U.S. Constitution does not specifically refer to the native Americans as “savages,” if memory serves me, in a negative way as does the Declaration of Independence (nor does the Declaration mention slavery, if memory serves me, as does the Constitution obliquely, as with the Three-Fifths Compromise), but it might as well have for all that happened after the Constitution’s adoption.

      1. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution is also a reference to slavery. Quote (from the Constitution) “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

        1. Now that you mention it, I recall that.

          I’ll bring that up in response the next time some Robert Byrd-esque type, carrying the U.S. constitution around in his coat pocket, unreservedly sings the document’s praises.

  13. deGrasse Tyson’s comment is a bit childish and even cringeworthy. As others have said, he should stay in his own lane. He’s probably not well-versed on the sex and gender controversies, in which case he should keep his trap shut. He looks foolish to some and will anger others.

    1. If I would tell him something to do, it would be, at this point, to read the literature, or books, then come back and say something.

      It seems clear he is just riffing based on day to day experience of life, but that’s it. That might be ok in general, but in particular he is unaware of Queer Theory and its authors’ writing, or thinks it doesn’t matter.

  14. I agree with Tyson’s point which I see as saying that no one, but especially the government, should be concerned about how a person wants to express their gender, whether it be male, female, something in-between, or alternating. Dansky seems to be upset that he used a couple of tired stereotypes. I see this as no different than getting upset that someone referred to mothers rather than birthing people or whatever the correct term is today. Hilton seems to be making a point about the difficulties of being female in the world, and I wouldn’t disagree. It seems completely irrelevant to the topic however and reminds me a bit of the kritik arguments from the recent piece on the degradation of debates.

    1. What he said was just dumb. No one is 80% female and 20% male (actually a few, very rare mosaics might be). 99.9999+% of humanity is either 100.0% female or 100.0% male. In other shocking news, 2 + 2 is actually 4, not 4.2. By the way, sex is not ‘assigned’ (more PC nonsense). Sex (in babies) is observed and 99.9% (but not 100.0%) accurate. For example, Caster Semenya was born with a vagina and thought (incorrectly) to be female. However, he is a 46,XY male with testes (internal), no ovaries, and no uterus. He has normal levels of Testosterone. In one area in the Dominican Republic, this is actually somewhat common. See “The extraordinary case of the Guevedoces”. The 5-ARD condition is somewhat common in this area. Semenya is also 5-ARD.

  15. It is offensive. I agree with Gangajo above. The idea that “I feel 80% female and 20% male today so I’ll wear makeup” is just a stupid thing to say. He is saying (in a simplified model) that “female = makeup; male = muscle shirt”, and our gender spectrum relies on how much I feel one way or the other today. This approach is antithetical to individualism and freedom of individual expression (which is what the big oaf is trying to convey though he fails miserably).

    1. The problem is that NdGT and other males can’t possibly know what it’s like to be a woman. Only females can know this. All that he and other males can do is observe (or read about) how women express themselves, how other people clock women (or how he himself clocks women), and how women react to being observed. Then he can use those observations of social interactions involving women to triangulate his own presentation (in terms of all the stereotypes he mentioned and commenters have added here), judge the response he gets, and adjust his presentation to optimize subsequent responses from others.

      This is what Butler and others mean when they write that gender is performative. But performing a role based on third-party observations is not the same as the kind of subjective “knowing” that NdGT and TRAs everywhere claim that they can know about themselves. When someone like this says “I feel 80% female today” the only meaning this can have is “I’d like my appearance & presentation to be about 80% of the way toward some stereotype of a woman that I’ve observed.” This is what so many people mean when they claim to have a “gender identity”. It can’t mean anything else because the dude has no access to the subjective experiences of females.

      It’s kinda weird in a way for a cosmologist like NdGT to use this quantitative phrase “80%”. Since he’s talking about approaching some kind of stereotype, presumably it’s possible to be not just 100% female but 120% or 150% female; it all depends on what the stereotype is. If 100% is that attractive female physicist you saw at that conference last year, is Barbie 200% (because over-the-top stereotypical trait values)?

      I think gender identity is just bollocks: a bunch of stereotypes piled on top of some anxiety and depression (plus homophobia in some parents of trans kids, and in a few cases that weird AGP sexual fetish).

    2. “This approach is antithetical to individualism and freedom of individual expression (which is what the big oaf is trying to convey though he fails miserably).”

      So you understood his message, but chose to take offense?

      Of course he’s referencing a generality. Who tends to wear make up in our society – who are make up adds targeted at? – men or woman?

      Who is more likely to wear a muscle shirt – a man or a woman?

      Yeesh. It’s like remarking how tall NBA players are and someone taking offense “What about Jordan McLaughlin!!!”

      For goodness sake it’s a generality, not a claim of some iron law.

      Do you *really* think NDT thinks women have to wear make up to be a woman? That men have to wear muscle shirts to be a man?

      1. >>> So you understood his message, but chose to take offense?

        I should have been more precise. I *think* I understood what he *intended* to say, but that requires me giving him the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, what he *actually* said is offensive.

        Of course he’s referencing a generality. Who tends to wear make up in our society – who are make up adds targeted at? – men or woman?

        Who is more likely to wear a muscle shirt – a man or a woman?

        Yeesh. It’s like remarking how tall NBA players are and someone taking offense “What about Jordan McLaughlin!!!”

        First off, I had to look up Jordan McLaughlin 🙂 If you'd said Muggsy Bogues or even Nate 'Tiny' Archibald I've have gotten it LOL.

        But no, the examples you give are exactly the reverse of what NDT did.

        Your examples are of recognizing generalities and then noticing exceptions. Generally women wear makeup, but then there's Harry Styles. Generally NBA players are tall, but then there's Jordan McLaughlin.

        NDT goes opposite, starting from the individual. I wake up feeling 80% tall today so I'll play basketball; I wake up feeling 80% short today, I won't play basketball, I'll do gymnastics. It's a matter of imposing the "general rule" on the individual.

        I think NDT said two, contradictory, things.
        (1) He said essentially–there are gender roles (expressed in his example as clothing choices), and people conform to them depending on how they feel that day. You feel like a woman, wear makeup (impose the category on the person).
        (2) He said "why do you care? what business is it of yours?" This is expressing the individualism message that I mentioned. But this approach means you don't impose any category on a person. You can wake up as yourself and wear makeup or not, wear a muscle shirt or not, regardless. Don't even have to introspect on gender.

        To wrap: I *want* to think NDT is more aligned with (2), but his actual words were aligned with (1).

  16. NDGT is a great expositor of science, and I will back him all the way. I don’t get those who say he talks down to his audience – he picks great topics and distills them in a peerless fashion (Brian Cox, also excellent). Scrolling through his YT shorts is a great way to spend some time. Perhaps he is unwise getting into this area, but my hackles are up whenever someone says to stay in your lane – what is more authoritarian than that? I think it’s valuable to have scientifically literate people describe their perspective, and if it comes across as confused, that’s more a sign that this is a difficult arena to navigate, rather than poor motivations or preparation on their part.
    Just a suggestion, but spending so much copy on this kerfuffle, and others like it, seems like a diversion of precious energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

  17. Edit: This was intended as a reply to Joolz at #7.
    I hope what you have accomplished in the UK gets traction in Canada, Joolz, where it is a criminal offence as conversion therapy not to prescribe puberty blockers to anyone who asks for them. I’m trying to help.

  18. NdGT’s comments are offensive because he is effectively dismissing women’s genuine efforts to highlight and combat the implications of gender identity ideology for their rights and safety (and for the potential damage to the bodies of children and young people) as being nothing more than overweening attempts to police how people choose to present themselves in terms of conventional feminine or masculine dress etc.

    Gender-critical (or sex-realist) feminists have been fighting against the straitjacket of gender stereotypes for years; they literally couldn’t care less how someone dresses. But they do believe that sex is real and immutable, and that sex matters when it comes to women’s safety, privacy, and dignity (and fair competition in sports) and they shouldn’t be penalised for doing so.

    As Jo Rowling famously said,

    Dress however you please.
    Call yourself whatever you like.
    Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
    Live your best life in peace and security.
    But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?
    #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill

  19. This is one of the perils of accepting the mantle of Public Intellectual. You can be expected to (or decide yourself to) pronounce on all manner of subjects outside your wheelhouse of expertise.

  20. I’m offended by Neil DeGras Tyson’s exaggerated, spluttering, mincing, mocking, childish, over-the-top Strawman caricature of what he thinks people like Dawkins, Rowling, Hilton, Dansky, and PCC are saying. “Here’s what YOU’RE like …!” And off he goes doing a schtick comedy routine which grossly misrepresents what’s actually going on.

    As Colin Wright put it:

    No one is campaigning or attempting to enforce binary dress codes for males and females across society. So who is the “you” to which Tyson believes he is responding?

    Tyson’s responding to the propaganda that pretends that a belief that sex is real and sometimes matters is part and parcel with the narrow-minded prude mentality of the conservative far right. And he’s addressing the Gender Critical. Shame on him.

    1. C. Wright :

      “No one is campaigning or attempting to enforce binary dress codes for males and females across society.”

      [tryin’ to be concise]:

      I understand that. However, Queer theory / Marxism posit a conspiracy by society to do precisely that – media, corporations, … family in particular, …etc. Marx’s solution is to reorganize society like building blocks to resolve the “problem” – as it has a holistic view.

      literature I am drawing from lately :

      Dialectical and Historical Materialism
      Jospeh V. Stalin

      Full text at marxists dot org – not an easy book to find.

  21. Here’s a Google Ngram for “gender” :

    I think it is clear – the word “gender” – a dull word, prior – started off in the 60s, it really took off in the 70s, and its been going strong ever since – with a local peak at 2003, a dip at 2011, after which it has been increasing.

    It is interesting to try “gender identity”, “gender role”, etc. here is the direct link :

    … “sex” actually peaked in ~1980 – “love” is going strong (what a relief!). Try “queer” – it lags behind “gender” for a while…

    1. In English, the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are quite distinct. Historically, they meant the same thing. To some extent, they are used interchangeably, even today. The idea that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ mean completely different things, can be traced back (to a significant degree) to Dr. John Money. Money was a Canadian who ‘treated’ the Reimer’s. He was a monster, to say the least. A book was written about David Reimer (“As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl”). Money thought that ‘gender’ can be completely separated from ‘sex’. He was wrong.

  22. I have no idea why NdGT felt compelled to make this condescending statement, though “compelled” may be key for his business model. No one is arguing what people wear, and throwing XY in there conflates sex and gender.

    While I am not quite outraged (what a relief! I wouldn’t want to be one of those pesky hysterical or performative woman), this is a dismissal of sex/gender issues. Dansky has fought for years to protect women’s spaces from aggressive men, fetishists, and queer theorists. I hope NdGT, like many casual observers, simply doesn’t yet comprehend the very real threat to society.

    Far better had he simply stated you can dress how you like, but sex is immutable.

  23. In English, the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are quite distinct. Historically, they meant the same thing. To some extent, they are used interchangeably, even today. The idea that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ mean completely different things, can be traced back (to a significant degree) to Dr. John Money. Money was a Canadian who ‘treated’ the Reimer’s. He was a monster, to say the least. A book was written about David Reimer (“As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl”). Money thought that ‘gender’ can be completely separated from ‘sex’. He was wrong.

    1. If sex and gender historically mean the same thing, what explains the strong rise of “gender” in the literature from the 60s-80s, while “sex” is generally high back to 1800?

      Kathleen Stock writes in Material Girls (2021, paraphrased), with Wikipedia note at the end :

      John Money and Robert Stoller first coined the concept of gender identity in the 1960s.

      In the 60s-80s, academic literature gave the bundles of expectations of femininity and masculinity the special name “gender”.

      1949 – Simone deBeauvoir : near-quote: one is not born a woman ; rather, one becomes a woman. (End near quote of deBeauvoir ). This has been taken to mean being a woman is not the same as conception or birth as female (my own slight re-write of Stock there).

      “The term gender identity was coined by psychiatry professor Robert J. Stoller in 1964 and popularized by the controversial psychologist John Money.[5][6][7]”

      ^^this is my boiler plate for “gender”

      1. My comment that “Historically, they meant the same thing” was meant as a reference to the pre-1960/70 period

  24. It makes me think Tyson, and Sean Carroll alike, either don’t believe biology is a science, or don’t take it seriously.
    I say this because both them take the following stance: concepts in physics, no matter how much they go against common sense or daily practices, are the correct ones; but when it comes to basic concepts in biology, they turned it around, the he’ll with biological concepts, long live common sense and daily practices!

    Now THAT annoys me endlessly!!!

  25. I don’t like the word offensive – though, at a push, I might say it’s a bit annoying.

    It all brings to mind a quote from Father Ted. Talking to Dougal (dimwit understudy priest) about bland, thoughtless TV shows, Ted describes them as: “Chewing-gum for the eyes.” NDGT’s video seems like eye chewing-gum for the Twitter age.

    To me, it doesn’t matter that NDGT has no expertise in this area. I mean really, what expertise does one actually need? The concern lies in his status as a well-known scientist and communicator, trusted by the public. I suspect, perhaps, that he has become rather too enamoured with his own reputation. Knowing it would be a crime to keep this sage wisdom all to himself, he engages mouth before brain. What follows is a confused bolus of gender-ideological bollocks.

    It shouldn’t matter, but he is a trusted scientist, and therefore, many people will believe his ill-considered waffle. We have enough people spouting this nonsense, we don’t need esteemed astronomers adding fuel to the fire.

    Returning to the first paragraph, Dougal’s response was: “No thanks Ted!”. That’s just what I would say to NDGT.

    1. “I mean really, what expertise does one actually need?”

      Tyson is showing up the gun fight of Queer Theory with the plastic spoon of trying to just get down to Earth.

      Down to Earth is great, and nobody can do it with the cosmos like Tyson!

      But it is no match for Queer Theory.

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